This week, Radio 1190 will not be hosting an edition of Locals Live, so instead head to Innisfree this Thursday for some Conference on World Affairs events! If you're not attending events on campus or spending ridiculous amounts of money on a cup of crappy coffee at Starbucks on campus, head to radio1190.org for reviews of the new Japanese Breakfast, Bibio and Explosions in the Sky albums!
After the announcement of a hiatus of her first band, Little Big League, and the news of her mother's cancer, Michelle Zauner returned to Portland to create dream pop under the new moniker Japanese Breakfast. After three small self-released albums in three years, Zauner decided to head into the studio and re-record a handful of old hits and new compositions. The subsequent album Psychopomp, is a cohesive and endearing album that is her flagship statement as Japanese Breakfast. The simple guitar, bass, drum, synth and vocal combo is airy and light but carries a heavy emotional weight. Though the production on this record is better than her self-recorded albums, the record is by no means slick or overproduced. At times, the synths and vocals become noisy and overpowering without overbearing the listener but conveying intense emotional states through sound instead. What's so appealing about Zauner's sound is that she sounds reminiscent of her dream-pop influences as well as her modern contemporaries. The icy and light vocals on Psychopomp are akin to Cocteau Twins and Galaxie 500, but the emotional openness and indie-pop sensibility makes her right at home with acts like Frankie Cosmos and Mitski. In a sea of indie-pop and dream pop acts in this day an age, the originality and dreaminess of Japanese Breakfast's sound makes her official debut full-length stand out above the rest. Out now on Yellow K records, Psychopomp by Japanese Breakfast is Radio 1190's CD of the Month for April. For a full review, log on to radio1190.org.
Out of Broomfield, CO 18-year-old Jennifer Keller and Chase Miller have been making a lo-fi combination of dream pop, bedroom-pop and slow-core as American Grandma since 2012. On their ninth release, girlcult the duo is at their darkest and most confessional. Tracks like the opener "never enough" have intertwining guitar leads with slow-moving and contemplative vocals over top. The electronic drumbeats underneath most of the songs have a strong similarity to hip-hop or, dare I say, trap music, which may seem odd on the surface but works overall in conveying the pulsing, syrupy quality of their music. What's so profound about the music of American Grandma is their ability to sound vast and intimate at the same time. The closing track "ruminations" is an ethereal track with eerie synth pads but the lyrics depict a story of a lover that is forced by social norms to conform to hetero-normative gender and sexuality roles. The track is deeply confessional and vulnerable, but dreamy and soothing enough to work on multiple levels. Overall, girlcult shows some of the best songwriting and lyrical content that American Grandma has offered to date. Though the album is strong and impactful, it is by no means a stopping point for the young duo, showing promise for even more stellar dream pop albums in the future.
Though the Minneapolis group Kitten Forever is only comprised of drums, bass and vocals, their style of punk packs quite the punch. On their seventh release 7 Hearts, the group channels the feminist punk energy of Bikini Kill and the twee pop quirks of Beat Happening. Though theres only two instruments and one vocal, the group keeps every song fresh and interesting by switching around instruments on nearly every track. With the fierce drums and noisy, distorted bass, the group at times sounds closer to Lightning Bolt than they do to many guitar-based punk bands. Though Kitten Forever doesn't redefine the genre of punk music, the trio has unbeatable energy, great personality and the chops to make one hell of a rock and roll record.